In these dark times, we need some distraction. My specialty on the site has always been distractions, normally from crappy baseball, but I think my particular brand of distraction will work well in this situation. Over the years, I have subjected myself to many different “food” items at Chase Field, and most of them have been interesting concepts, but very poorly executed. With all the extra time on my hands, and a very well stocked pantry thanks to preparation for the shutdown, it seems as good a time as any to try and recreate them in my own kitchen. Maybe they’ll be better, maybe they won’t be! Who knows!
First up, is the Funnel Cake Chicken Sandwich. They unleashed this atrocity on unsuspecting fans back in 2017. They described it this way:
Crispy chicken fillet, garlic black pepper Cheddar, house strawberry jam, powdered sugar and maple syrup, served on two funnel cakes
Location: Taste of Chase (Section 130)
Alternatively, after eating it, this is how I chose to summarize it:
A soggy, Tyson, breaded, frozen chicken breasts topped with a substance that is supposedly cheese, but only provides an overwhelming flavor of black pepper to the meal that almost overpowers every other possible flavor you could get from anything else. I say almost, because that strawberry goop they put on top compliments it well, in a terrible sort of way, with a sticky cloyingness that makes you long for a glass of milk to wash the flavor away.
What was most disappointing with it to me, however, was that it should have been good! Ultimately, it’s nothing more than a play on chicken and waffles, which is a classic combination. Instead of producing something decent, though, they tried to do too much, with cheese and jam and syrup, and frankly used crappy ingredients.
In recreating it, I’m going to do things a little differently. I’m going to scrap the cheese entirely. It just didn’t work. I don’t want to lose that savory element, however, so I’ll be replacing the strawberry jam with a strawberry balsamic glaze. That will add a tangy flavor to balance out the sweetness brought by the funnel cake and the strawberry in the glaze.
Now I don’t have a lawyer, but if I did they’d tell me this is the part where I warn you, we will be using deep fat frying to make... basically everything in this meal. Please be careful. Oil is hot, likes to pop, and can make your life miserable if you don’t treat it with respect. Also, don’t pour it down your drain. You’ll clog it nicely. Let it cool completely, then pour it back into the bottle. You can actually reuse it next time you need to fry something.
For that, you will need some equipment to make these recipes. The easiest route will be to just use a deep fat fryer. Some people may have one, many will not. The other route, which is more challenging, is a cast iron dutch oven. Fill it up with 3 quarts of your preferred cooking oil (personally use peanut oil whenever I have the option) and use a candy thermometer to make sure you’re maintaining the correct temperature. Slightly more involved than a dedicated fryer, but still very doable. It’s how I made the test recipes.
First step will be to make the strawberry balsamic glaze. Sounds fancier than it actually is. Let’s take a look
Strawberry Balsamic Glaze
- 3/4 C Balsamic vinegar
- 1 C strawberry jam
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- 1 TSP salt
- Zest from one lemon
- In a small pan, bring the Balsamic to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until it has reduced, and it has a thick, syrupy consistency
- Add jam, brown sugar, salt, and lemon zest.
- Return to boil and cook until it returns to a syrupy consistency.
- Set aside and allow to cool while completing other components of the sandwhich
Next up, we’ll make our funnel cake for the bread. Now, we could whip up completely from scratch funnel cake, but this recipe is time consuming enough, so we’ll cheat a little.
Makes 6-8 cakes
- 1 box of yellow cake mix, prepared to directions on the box
- 3⁄4 C of all-purpose flower
- Add the extra flour to the prepared cake mix. This makes the batter a little thicker and gives you better control over it as you’re pouring it into the fryers.
- Using a fryer set up like we discussed above, heat the oil to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels underneath a metal cooling rack
- Once the oil is heated, use a pastry bag to pout the batter into the hot oil in a spiral design, starting in the center, and working your way out, until you have a spiral about 3.5 inches in diameter.
- Cook for about a minute and a half, until the they are starting to get golden brown up the sides. Carefully flip, so the other side can cook. I used two metal spatulas to accomplish this. A metal spider might work as well.
- Cook on the other side for about a minute, until also golden brown. Remove from the oil using the same method you flipped them with, onto the prepared baking sheet. Enjoy one, and then save the rest for the sandwiches!
The last component we need to put together this sandwich is the fried chicken filets. What I did for this was took about four pounds of chicken breasts, and then I cut them into smaller pieces, until they were about three inches wide and an inch thick. Any bigger than this, they just took too long to cook.
- 2 2⁄3 C all-purpose flour
- 2 TBSP garlic salt
- 1 TBSP paprika
- 3 TSP pepper
- 1⁄2 TSP Thyme
- 1⁄2 TSP sage
- 1⁄2 TSP oregano
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1⁄2 cups water
- 1 TSP salt
- 4 LB boneless, skinless chicken breasts, divided and patted dry
- Heat your fry setup to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and a cooling rack.
- Combine all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. In another, combine the eggs, water, and salt.
- Drench the chicken pieces in the egg mixture, and then thoroughly cover with the seasoned flour
- Carefully, using metal tongs, lower the chicken into oil. Cook, turning regularly so they don’t burn on the bottom, for 12 minutes
- Remove from oil and place on the prepared cooling rack. Check temperature immediately to ensure that chicken has reached an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. If it has, great. If not, return to oil, three minutes at a time, until it has reached the correct temp.
At this point, you’re ready to assemble the sandwich! Place one of the funnel cakes on a plate, add a piece of chicken, drizzle with the glaze, finish it off with another funnel cake, and you are set to go!
While being different than the original sandwich in a couple of major regards, I think this sticks to the original vision of the dish, while making some needed improvements. The strawberry balsamic glaze balances the sweetness of the strawberry with the tang of the balsamic. It provides a balance that was just lacking in the original recipe.
If quarantine gets to you, and you make the recipe, please feel free to share it either here or on social media. I’d love to see how it turns out for you guys. I’m going to try to make this a weekly column again, since Pit Your Wits obviously isn’t going to happen right now. I have a couple concession items in mind, but are there any you’d like to see me do? Enjoy!